LEWISTOWN - Though families of the Juniata Valley are getting ready for Halloween with candy and costumes, it won't be long before the to-do list is filled with Christmas shopping and holiday baking. In fact, the Juniata River Valley Visitor's Bureau has already started its Christmas list, with the Festival of Ice as the top priority.
For the first time in 10 years, the annual event is being organized and run by a community committee, said Jim Tunall, president and executive director. With plans to shake things up and add a bunch of new activities, attendees should be expecting an increase in holiday cheer at this year's festival.
"Everything we've been doing has worked, but the event was becoming stagnant - people knew what they were getting every year," Tunall said. "We felt it was important to switch things around and find new ways to engage the community."
The event committee began planning in August around the theme "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas," and have made a number of changes and additions in an effort to make the festival feel like new again.
The Festival of Ice, scheduled for Dec. 5 and 6, will be condensed to the four block area around Monument Square, instead of four blocks down Market Street, to create a more cohesive presentation of vendors, activities and ice sculptures.
"The idea isn't to run from one end of the festival to the other anymore," said Jenny Landis, festival co-chair. "It's about coming to hang out as a family. A lot of our new things are interactive. We want people to get involved and stay
The first evening of the festival will kick off with an opening procession, in which the community is invited to participate, Landis said. Anyone who wants to be in the parade will meet at St. John's Lutheran Church and pick out a puppet to hold or a costume to wear. Along with a surprise parade leader and musical accompaniment, the parade will then circle the festival.
In addition to the procession, Thursday evening will include a caroling group for community members to join that walk to area residences and senior facilities.
The two-day festival will also feature a new JVB Holiday Market, with more than 23 vendors clustered in the Juniata Valley Bank parking lot, and the South Hills Cafe, serving gourmet hot chocolate and lattes.
The proprietors of Chestnut Manor will also be present to collect Christmas wishes from festival goers. After going on display, the wishes will then be submitted to the prayer box at Granville Methodist Church.
"There's no guarantee that any of (the wishes) will come true, but we're sure this activity will generate good will and a bit of Christmas compassion for those taking the time to read them," Tunall said.
The event committee also has big plans for activities for children including the addition of letters to Santa, carnival games, cookie decorating, pony rides and crafts.
"We're talking with many people about many new ideas," said Janet Walker, festival co-chair. "Animals are always a big attraction for kids, so we'll have more of them this year, as well as new games to play."
Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, families will also have the chance to purchase their Christmas tree or Christmas wreath at the festival.
"We're hoping these exciting new changes will draw more people in," Landis said.
Tunall expects attendance to at least double.
For more information about the 2013 Festival of Ice, contact the Juniata River Valley Visitor's Bureau at 248-6713 or visit www.juniatarivervalley.org. Those interested in becoming a sponsor or vendor can find the appropriate forms online.